10/23/19 Purdue Hovde Hall

A Purdue student has filed a class-action lawsuit against the University, asking the University to pay back fees after Purdue’s “refusal to provide restitution” after sending students home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zachary Church, an out-of-state senior in aerospace engineering, filed the lawsuit against Purdue’s Board of Trustees on Thursday, demanding prorated refunds for what the lawsuit describes as “breaches of contract” between the students and the University.

“As a result of this refusal, the Plaintiff and similarly situated students lost the benefits of in-person instruction, housing, meals and student activities for which they had already paid for an entire semester,” the lawsuit said.

Though University Residences offered a $750 credit to students who notified UR of their plans before March 30, the lawsuit alleges the offered amount is not “commensurate with the financial losses to the University’s students and their families."

Purdue’s transition to online classes is described by the lawsuit as a responsible decision, but deemed it “unfair and unlawful” for the University to keep the full price of tuition.

“(Purdue is) effectively passing the losses on to the students and their families,” the suit reads.

The University provided comment later Friday afternoon.

"It was sadly predictable that some plaintiff’s lawyer would attempt to profit from this unprecedented public health crisis that’s affected us all," said Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty in an email. "The suit is baseless and has no chance of ultimate success. In the meantime, it will be one more minor difficulty among all those we’re currently wrestling with."

Purdue breached its contract with students when it moved its classes online, closed most University buildings and stopped providing food and services students had paid for, according to the lawsuit.

“Plaintiff and other members of the Tuition Class paid substantial tuition for live in-person instruction in brick-and-mortar classrooms and did not receive the full benefit of their bargain,” the lawsuit reads. “The University should return the monies paid for tuition for the Spring 2020 semester.”

Church himself has paid $2,050 for engineering program fees, the lawsuit said. He claims he will no longer receive those benefits after being asked to move off-campus and has not been offered a “proper prorated refund.”

The lawsuit demands the difference between one half-semester of live in-person instruction and one half-semester of online instruction to be refunded.

Some universities across the country have offered refunds in some shape or form to students. Indiana University has offered prorated housing refunds to their students and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will refund students’ tuition and housing at a prorated amount. The University of California, Berkeley, has offered to reimburse travel costs that were incurred as a result of asking students to leave campus following the COVID-19 outbreak.

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